National / Crime & Legal

Neighbor arrested over Niigata girl's death

Kyodo

Police arrested a man in his 20s in connection with the strangling of a 7-year-old girl whose body was left on train tracks in the city of Niigata a week ago, investigators said Monday.

The man, who was only described as a corporate employee, has begun to confess his involvement in the death of Tamaki Omomo, a student in the second grade at Kobari Elementary School who vanished while on her way home on May 7, the investigators said.

Questioning began earlier in the day on a voluntary basis.

The suspect’s house is in the same neighborhood where the girl’s body was found. The police initially arrested him on suspicion of abandoning a body, but they will grill him over the slaying as well.

Omomo’s body was found at around 10:30 p.m. May 7 after being struck by a train about 170 meters from her home. An autopsy found she had been strangled to death beforehand.

Earlier that day, Omomo told a friend she was chased by a man wearing black clothes and sunglasses while on her way to school in the morning, according to the Niigata City Board of Education. But investigators said Monday that man wasn’t the one sought by police.

The police have received multiple reports that a stranger was seen near the school.

Omomo left school with friends at about 3 p.m. Witnesses saw her later near a railway crossing, walking alone toward her home about 300 meters away, the police said.

When she did not return, her mother contacted the school before calling the police at about 5 p.m. that day.

The police think it is likely that Omomo was kidnapped on a road parallel to the single-track rail line before being killed elsewhere.

Another train that went by the area about 10 minutes before her body was found passed without incident, leading investigators to speculate that her body was left just afterward.

Her body was found clothed in a pink zippered jacket and gray trousers, with satchel and sneakers nearby, they said. These were the same clothes she was wearing when she left school, though her pink umbrella remains missing.

Parents and residents in the area have been exercising caution over the past week, with many accompanying their children to and from school.

“As I’m worried, I always take her to and from school in the morning and evening,” a 76-year-old woman walking with her granddaughter said.

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